The big papers are filled with news stories about President Trump stoking anger on the right.
That was the major theme yesterday morning, a day after their own op-ed pages were stoking anger on the left over the Kavanaugh confirmation.
The stories on the president’s strategy are on target, but the general lack of focus on liberals employing similar tactics is striking. After all, the argument that the left should get riled up and channel the anger over now-Justice Kavanaugh is right there in the back of the A section.
(All this got temporarily overshadowed by Nikki Haley’s resignation, which stunned the media — no leaks? — and spawned suspicion over why she’d surprise the White House with an announcement a month before the midterms.)
That both sides are deliberately injecting rage into the midterms underscores that we are in the era of base politics.
Let’s start with Trump. After the raw and brutal process of narrowly getting Brett Kavanaugh confirmed, he could have chosen to send a conciliatory message. After all, he won. Instead, while doing a White House swearing-in for the judge, who’d already been sworn in, the president apologized to him and his family and then ratcheted up the rhetoric.
Trump called the allegations of long-ago sexual assault that transfixed the country “a hoax set up by the Democrats.” Then he went even further, saying “it was all made up. It was fabricated and it’s a disgrace.”
So after speaking respectfully about the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford — that is, until he mocked her for not remembering the details from 36 years ago — the president is flat-out saying she made it up. Maybe he was also referring to Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick, but it was Ford who was questioned in the Senate.
That was not exactly calculated to assuage the feelings of the majority of Americans, according to polls, who believe Ford’s account.
As The New York Times put it: “Rather than falling back on defense amid roiling outrage, especially among women, Mr. Trump is going on offense, trying to turn the furor into an asset instead of a liability. With the world’s loudest megaphone, he hopes to make the issue not the treatment of women in the #MeToo era but the treatment of men who deserve due process.”
It’s a gamble, says the Times, but the Trumpian calculation “is that conservative voters who for most of the year have been lethargic about the congressional elections can now be motivated to turn out by anger over the Democratic attacks on Justice Kavanaugh. Liberal voters, in this view, were already animated by their opposition to Mr. Trump and likely to vote even before Justice Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault and exposing himself during drunken school parties, so Democrats have less to gain at this point.”
No one really knows how this will play out. Maybe it’s true that the Democrats who believed Ford were already pumped up to vote in November. But with Kavanaugh on the high court, can Trump and his party really sustain the level of outrage?
The Washington Post spotlights another trend, saying that “Republicans have cast the Trump resistance movement as ‘an angry mob,’ a term used by many of them to describe a faceless amalgamation of forces that they say threaten the country’s order and, they hope, energize their voters.” While Trump and the GOP control everything in Washington, “in an effort to flip the midterm elections from a referendum on the unpopular president, they are casting themselves as defenders at the barricades.”
Everyone has the right to protest, of course, and the “mob” rhetoric is rather overheated. But the way in which some demonstrators have acted — screaming to disrupt the hearings, chasing senators into hallways and elevators, hounding Republicans out of restaurants — has hurt their cause. No wonder Trump is making this relatively small group of people a big target. If it is true, as another Times story says, that “Trump has seemed more interested in inflaming rather than reducing the tensions over his Supreme Court pick,” then what about the liberal side?
It was Charles Blow who warned in his Times column “Liberals, This Is War,” saying those on the left must fight that way.
It was David Leonhardt whose Times column was titled “Get Angry, and Get Involved,” who told readers that “if you’re not angry yet, you should be.”
It was E.J. Dionne who said in his Post column that Republicans had just completed a “judicial coup,” and called for an FDR-style court-packing plan.
But I don’t see a whole lot of news stories about liberal anger, perhaps because to some editors it seems justified after the ugly Kavanaugh process.
The truth is, for better or worse, that both sides are playing the anger card, and the coverage ought to reflect that.